I'm a little slow today. I just switched to Sanka. So...have a heart?

Saturday, April 23, 2005


Damon Wayans is hi-larious.



I want to wish each and every one of you a hap-hap-happy Pesach!!! In my eternal quest now to do anything except study for finals, I have a rubbed and barbecued and onion-smothered a nice piece of fleisch (brisket) which is now slowly baking in a moist heat at 200 in the oven, where it will gently cook for the next six hours. I have also taken the liberty of arranging a tableau of passover products in front of that curs'ed mixer to remind us what the smells and sounds of Passover really are - onions, parsley, hard boiled eggs, matzah and soup, and the sound of a mixer earnestly whisking enough air into a honeycake, for it to rise in the oven. G-d, my house smells so good right now.

This used to be the holiday that I HATED most in the world when I was little. My family is a pretty traditional Jewish family for reform Jews. We keep kosher, which means, in truth, that we need FOUR sets of everything. There are the milch and fleischedich and pots and pans and silverware for everyday use, and then there's the Pesadicheh. An ENTIRELY other set of both milk and meat pots and pans and bowls and silverware for PASSOVER. We never used to go through the house and clean all the chometz out with feathers, we'd leave it where it was, but the dishes would go away, and the Pesadicheh would come out. We stopped really keeping kosher for Passover when I went to college, and commandeered all of the pesadich for my own personal use... it can probably never be used for Passover again, because of the amount of trayf I've been cooking in it... But anyway... Now I understand why Jews are considered rich and money-grubbing - we need to save up to afford a house where we have space enough to store all of our plates and pots! Kidding.

I don't remember when, but then Passover became one of my favorite holidays. I know I started hating it less in high school, because I knew it meant we'd have a houseful and a big pot of soup on the stove, with matzah balls boiling in it. I officially stopped hating it at around the time when my grandmother got sick, and I turned more religious, as I went to Schul twice a month to beg G-d for her recovery. It sort of worked...then didn't. But as I went through that phase, I became aware of exactly what Passover meant to me... Suddenly, the smells of sweet and sour meatballs and matzoh-crusted Manischewitz potatoes with paprika were sort of a bridge from the past to the present, and a way to preserve and strengthen memories through smell. And that's all about what this holiday is about, right? Mainly tradition, but also sacrifice to recall the sacrifice that our ancestors went through, gratitude for our release from slavery, and the renewal that Spring brings with it.

Through college, I would gather up all my chometz and store it at someone else's house. In law school, I bundle it up and put it in my laundry room, and in past years, I have temporarily transferred ownership during Passover to friends of mine, so that the chometz isn't in MY house.

I'm not really keeping Passover this year, because I have finals and I'm too poor to go out and do the huge shopping trip that Pesach entails. I wish I could go home for Seder, but I have a final in five days (uh-oh) and I just can't swing that. I know, though, exactly what's happening in my house right now. My father has probably just returned from Produce Galore, laden with fancy sauces and vegetables. My mother is buttering the outside of a large turkey inside and out, and the grill on the deck is probably heating up, with a pail of wood chips next to it, soaking, to smoke the turkey. There's a pot of soup that's started bubbling on the stove, and between buttering the turkey and hauling out my great-grandmother's china and the silverbox, she's skimming foam from off the top of the soup. The seder plate with its paintings of plagues on which symbolic bowls with maroor and karpatz will rest is off on part of the counter somewhere...

The house already smells like onions because behind the pot of soup is a big pot of meatballs, that somehow never burns in my parents' house, but always burns in mine. The dining room table's leaves have been pulled out and the waterproof table condom has been stretched over the top to make sure that when someone spills a glass of Manischewitz, it doesn't warp the finish.

After the turkey is on the grill, my father will occupy one end of the counter, my mother the other. My father will be chopping carrots for tzimmes and my mother will be separating eggs and the Sunbeam will be screaming as it whips the whites with matzah meal, sugar and lemon peel for sponge cake. After the sponge cake comes out of the oven, my mother will invert the tube-pan on a bottle of ketchup, to make sure the cake doesn't fall. My brother will probably be watching TV in his pyjamas.

The Kleins, Eckhauses and Hartmans will probably bring some type of kuchen and a vegetable, and everyone will stand around the kitchen drinking wine. Upon entering everyone will say "Ooh, Shelley! It smells so good in here!" On the screen porch will be a cooler filled with kosher-for-passover Coke and Diet Coke... Everyone will notice the turkey resting on the counter upon their arrival and ooh and ahhh over what it looks like... later on at Seder, everyone will reiterate how they love George's smoked turkey and isn't it moist?! Very moist! George always makes such a delicious smoked turkey!

When the Seder starts, candles will be lit, my mother will cover her eyes and say the prayers, and my father will launch into the Hamotzei. When I was little, we used to read from the 1965 Maxwell House haggadot with all the Hebrew spilling out of my father's mouth, and my brother and I bored to tears. Nowadays we have more accessible siddurim with pictures and English. They'll clip through the service, abbreviating it because everyone is hungry and no one wants to go through a two-hour service while the matzah balls are getting tough. The kids will argue about who has to recite the four questions, until I do it, (not this year, I guess) mixing up when "mit'su'been u'vayn mishubin" comes, with "chametz u'matzah." Everyone will dip the parsley in the salt water, and eat their beitzah, they'll make the sandwiches out of charoset and red Gold's Horseradish (my favorite part) and they'll dip their fingers in wine and put dots on the plate for each plague (Dam, tze'far'dey'ah, kinim, arov, dever, sh'chin, barad, arbeh, chosech, and makkat b'chorot.) I always think "would we really want to be eating if we were sitting there saying, Blood, Frogs, Lice, Wild Beasts, Pestilence, Boils, Hail, Locusts, Darkness, the Killing of the First Born?" No matter, though. The door will open, wind will sweep across the table, the candles will flicker, as we droan, "Eliyahu ha'na'vi. Eliyahu ha'tish'bi, Eliyau, Eliyahu, Eliyahu, ha'gi'la di!" By that point, everyone will have had enough, and we'll launch into the matzah ball soup.

While it's sort of sad to sit here and study tax while I know this is going to happen, that's okay. There's always next year, in Jerusalem. Ilu hot'zi, hot'zi'onu, hot'zi'onu mi'mitz'raim, hot'zi'onu mi'mitz'raim, da-ye-nu!

Now this show...?

Damon Wayans? Hi-friggin'-larious. Dying.

What else is there to say?

Soon the skies will rain blood, and the Four Horsemen will nigh ride.

Tonight is one of those gorgeous nights... that I remember used to infuse me with energy when I lived in Maryland. It's 73 out and humid, there is no wind, crickets are chirping, the air smells clean, accented by the smell of damp tree bark and new oxygen from all of the plants respirating. It feels like one of those nights that I still think back on very fondly - it would probably be June of 1996, I would have gotten home from my job at Bassett's Original Turkey in the mall (worst job ever) where I would have spent the bulk of the afternoon around spattering grease from baking turkeys, and steam from steam trays - the last of the evening, starting at around 8:30 and going until 9:30 or 10, would be spent in the back of the restaurant, over two sinks of hot soapy water, scrubbing crusted macaroni off of stainless steel steamtrays, and washing knives and bowls of cranberry sauce out.

I would then call my parents to come and get me, and I would walk out of one of the access hallways in the mall, with my legs killing me from having stood for six hours, my fingers pruny from washing dishes for an hour, and my body sweaty, and gross, the damp smells of mopwater and turkey fat buzzing around me like a cloud of pungent mosquitoes.

In my hand, I would usually carry a club sandwich that I had made, a container of mashed potatoes and gravy, and a Sprite. When I would get home, I would sit on the screen porch in the back of the house, and just feel still, as I wolfed down my sandwich and potatoes. I would sit there, listening to the silence of my neighborhood, only broken by the soft whoosh of an occasional car, the peeping of the frogs down by the Middle Patuxent river and the rattling of cicadas in the trees, as the last of the fireflies would twinkle in the high tulip poplar trees that demarcated the start of the Patuxent Valley Nature Preserve. Every time I go home, I'm struck by how quiet, and safe and dark it is in our little slice of Utopian heaven that is the neighborhood of Clary's Forest in the Village of Hickory Ridge in the Town of Columbia, Maryland.

Unfortunately, I am convinced that quite soon, our comfortable house on our comfortable yard in our in our comfortable suburb will be no more. I expected the rivers to run red with blood on the day that George Bush was re-elected, but apparently the cancer that is his presidency will metasticize more slowly, gradually poisoning every aspect of American life until our country, drained of energy succumbs to his malignant policy and the putrid necrosis that he has brought upon us. At that point, a black hole will open up in Crawford, TX, and, like the burning middle of a piece of paper, will sweep outwards, until America is nothing but a charred wasteland, our people the gaunt and filthy peasants of a Dorothea Lange photograph.

Why do I say this? Because today, I put $15 dollars of regular unleaded gas into my car, and it only filled the damn thing up half way. We have just opened up the Alaskan preserves - some of the last undeveloped land in North America to oil drilling, and as consumers we will see no relief in our every day lives from this greedy Republican encroachment on one of the last sacred places in America. There is no other way to describe this administration and body politic, other than to call it a malignancy that taints anything it touches with the greasy smear of money for big business. The cartoons of the obese, monocled 19th Century Tammany Hall tycoons don't seem that out of place or ill-fitting nowadays. No, I'm not about to go all granola on everybody, renouncing all affiliations with corporate America and eating lentils for every meal out of a clay bowl I turned on my own wheel, but I am just disgusted at how these lobbies are able to push for results that earn them billions of dollars at the expense of everything else. We're drilling in a National Park, people. I wouldn't be surprised if soon we're tapping into the geothermal richness that is Yellowstone National Park, erecting Steam Derricks and pumping that resource out to Cigarette factories in Virginia, so that we can export our Phillip Morris products to Qatar!

I feel like the Lorax. I speak for the trees, the marvelous wonderful truffula trees! Our environmental policy is shot, and the rest of the world hates us. And yet, the country is shitting the bed because two men that love each other want to get married. We're totally unconcerned with the fact that our "boys" are dying "over there" as well as hundreds of innocent civilians, and the fact that we're going to be flat broke upon retirement. No matter, though, because we have yellow ribbon magnets on our SUV's, and the goll-durned right to complain if Janet Jackson's plastic emulation of a tit appears for a second on television. The stock markets keep on tanking and gas is up to 2.50 a gallon, but who gives a fuck about that shit, when vegetables are being denied their due process because they may die in a hospice after eleven years of litigation

I can't think of one positive thing that we as Americans are doing for the world. Spreading democracy? That's going over real well. Production of goods and services? We're churning out Escalades like it ain't nobody's biznazzy. Can our kids solve an algebraic equation upon graduation from high school? No, but at least we're spreading our love of the word "cuz" to people learning our language! Fuck the "America - Love it or Leave it" bullshit. I love this country enough to realize when it's going to hell in a handbasket, and this, my friends, is what I'm pretty sure we're witnessing. I'm tweaked out enough after writing my law review paper to realize that we basically have no real rights to freedom, and that our expectation of privacy is virtually nonexistent - the only reason we have any privacy whatsoever is because we haven't given anyone any reason to track or watch us.

And all this I realized as I thought back to the good ole' days, two years ago, when I could fill my tiny Volkswagen Golf up, from gaslight to flush for under $20 bucks. Now, half a tank of gas costs me $15 and I might not get to retire until I'm 67... And the air by the grickle grass still smells sweet, but even there, I wonder for how long...

"And all that the Lorax left here in this mess; was a small pile of rocks, with one word...UNLESS.
Whatever that meant, well, I just couldn´t guess. That was long, long ago. But each day since that day, I've sat here and worried, and worried away. Through the years, while my buildings have fallen apart, I´ve worried about it with all of my heart.

But now, says the Once-ler, Now that you´re here, the word of the Lorax seems perfectly clear.
UNLESS someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It´s not."